Wider Width Lumber

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Forum topic by Beeguy posted 06-20-2008 04:01 PM 9797 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3661 days

06-20-2008 04:01 PM

Hello Everyone,

I have a strange question. My wife bought an blanket chest. (Yes, I already know what you are thinking, but the shoemaker’s kids always had the oldest shoes.) It appears to be older and is simply constructed. It is made using simple butt joints, however whatever was used to hold the joint (screws??) was covered with plugs. I am thinking someone made it in a home workshop awhile back. Somewhere along the line it was refurbished because the drawers have masonite bottoms and cedar lining was also added. I am curious about the age and really have no way of telling but the main part of the chest is made of 18 inch wide pine. I know pine boards of this width are available but they are not common. I have been in and out of lumber yards all my life and never noticed anything wider than 12”. Just looking at the construction I really don’t think the builder would have milled them himself. I was wondering if anyone remembers a time when wider boards may have been more common. I know it has to do with older growth timber but there may be a little more to it than that.

The builder could have had access to a mill and this could have been made less than 20 years ago. But in looking at it I just think it is a bit older than that. Regardless to this piece, it got me thinking as to how far back do we go to find lumber commonly available in widths greater than 12 inches. My dad built the house I grew up in, in 1950. There was no plywood used anywhere and there were no boards wider than 12” that I can remember. Furniture and houses are different but I thought this could be an interesting albeit short discussion.

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

12 replies so far

View fredf's profile


495 posts in 3735 days

#1 posted 06-20-2008 04:31 PM these folks have 20”

-- Fred, Springfield, Ma

View Garry's profile


64 posts in 4276 days

#2 posted 06-20-2008 04:52 PM

Until just a few years ago it was common in my neck of the woods to get white pine 24 inches or wider. There is a good cance that I still have some shorts laying around somewhere.
I am making some of the trime in my house with steamed beach(makes beach red like cherry) and some of the boards were 14 inches or so wide.
I also have a 8 or nine foot 14 inch curly yellow birch board in the garage that will be used in the near furture somewhere in my house.

-- Garry, Engadine, Michigan (Upper Peninsula)

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4150 days

#3 posted 06-20-2008 07:04 PM

I grew up in a 200 year old house, we had 18” eastern pine floorboards (not all of ‘em were that width, but some were), and a stack of similar width boards in the barn.

I think it’s largely an old growth thing, when you have to turn that forest quickly and are harvesting in under a century there’s no time for the tree to grow to a real thickness.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3793 days

#4 posted 06-20-2008 07:23 PM

you can get it custom milled. i know a lumberyard that is on a site with figured maple. they can get you up to like 16” 0r 4” thick if you need it and even wider or thicker is special custom ordered

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3769 days

#5 posted 06-21-2008 12:38 AM

One clue about the age of the boards, if the growth rings are real close together, it’s probably old growth lumber. You don’t see pine with the close growth rings anymore. The chest could have been made from something else that was taken apart for the lumber.

View FloridaUFGator's profile


39 posts in 4038 days

#6 posted 06-21-2008 04:15 AM

I get a lot of my stuff from Steve Wall lumber (

I recently bought two 24” x 8’ pieces of Mahogany for a blanket chest I’m working on.

-- ...and remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses - Norm Abram

View barlow's profile


129 posts in 3764 days

#7 posted 06-21-2008 07:46 AM

You must remember, that its made of pine, pines grow big, about 6 months ago i was surfacing 4,000 feet of C & D select pine and there was a clear board in there 18”+, and 12ft long, most were 16ft long 10” and wider, as Garry I am also from the Upper Penninsula of Michigan which is big timber country, certain species have tendencies to grow large due to lack of demand/natural tendencies and surrondings.

-- barlow

View matter's profile


210 posts in 3794 days

#8 posted 06-21-2008 11:34 AM

I get 18-20” poplar boards regularly from our lumber supplier. I wish my planer could handle them full size.

-- The only easy wood project is a fire

View CaptnA's profile


116 posts in 3838 days

#9 posted 06-21-2008 03:15 PM

I have some chestnut boards that are over 30” wide and up to almost 8/4 thick. The man who cut these died over 50 years before I bought them and I’ve had them for over 10 years. I’m almost out now and little hope of replacing them so I’ve tried to use it sparingly and wisely. but with a few failures… :(
wider isn’t always ‘better’... I have some wide boards pine and cherry that are so cupped they are useless as they are… always something isn’t it? all depends on your purpse I guess.

-- CaptnA - "When someone hurts you, write it in the sand so the winds of forgiveness will scatter the memory... "

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3930 days

#10 posted 06-21-2008 05:56 PM

Maybe you can find a sawmill close to you ? I have a little list compiled that has help some people.
I regularly mill 24” wide lumber (and occasionally wider) here is some 28” wide 10/4 hard maple I milled just this week, Tuesday to be exact. It was live edge, 25” +/- if I wanted to straight edge it.

View dirtclod's profile


169 posts in 3885 days

#11 posted 06-22-2008 02:38 AM

I can only mill 24” wide. I rarely do. But it wouldn’t be all that rare for me to mill 12-18”. But I usually turn around and cut these into 6-12” widths.

You need a log ~ 25” (as measured inside the bark) at the small end to yield a 18” cant. It’s fairly common for us to mill this sized (or bigger) log. But I won’t cut extra wide boards unless I see something in the log that tells me it’s the thing to do. Who will buy them? And cupping is an issue. It takes a lot of weight to keep them submissive while drying. I’ve got some larger walnuts to be milled and I will cut them wide. But, unless someone asks for me to cut wide boards I will generally keep them under 12”.

-- Wonderful new things are coming! - God

View Boardman's profile


157 posts in 3786 days

#12 posted 06-23-2008 04:20 PM

I’ve seen a few examples of still-virgin forest that escaped the intial logging boom in the nothern midwest – which ran from the 1860’s to early 1900’s depending on how far west you are. And the white pines are amazingly big. In MI there’s Hartwick Pines in the Lower Peninsula and the Estivant Pines up near Garry – just outside of Copper Harbor in the U.P. Mostrous tall, straight trees. And there are some smaller pockets, much smaller, that may have gotten through the logging boom because the terrain was to difficult or wet to get them out.

In all the virgin forests growth rates were slow due to the forest density. Checking the growth rings per inch will tell you if their really old growth. And today large scale logging is more efficiency geared so easier terrain and volume are the benchmarks.

I used to live in WI and tore some 18-21” pine planks off a chicken coop that was built in the 1910 era.

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